Superior Fresh's Brandon Gottsacker Discusses Future of Leafy Greens
NORTHFIELD, WI - Although I have only been writing about the produce industry for just over two years, I’ve seen some truly incredible things. The word innovation holds more weight for me now, and I take care when I use it. But nothing quite prepared me for the innovative minds behind Superior Fresh, a one-of-a-kind aquaponics operation in the heart of Wisconsin. Using the nutrients from its Atlantic salmon farm to grow—what I personally can attest to—superior organic leafy greens, this up-and-coming company is about to take the produce industry by storm. I had the opportunity to sit down with Brandon Gottsacker, President, to learn more about how this company is changing the way the world grows food.
At just 34 years old, Brandon’s journey to the sector is impressive. Taken under the wing of renowned scientist, Dr. Steve Summerfelt, Brandon traveled the world, learning various aspects of aquaculture and hydroponics. Returning to Wisconsin, he quickly began developing Superior Fresh alongside Todd and Karen Wanek.
“Todd and Karen lived overseas for many years and were fortunate to see first-hand how food is grown and how unsustainable certain methods of agriculture can be. They wanted to make a difference in the daily lives of so many people by ensuring a clean and healthy food supply and working to fix our broken food system. My passion for aquaculture and their vision for sustainable food led us to develop Superior Fresh. Our mission is to bring the best products to market. They procured some farmland in Northfield, Wisconsin, with this vision in mind. While they were at it, they wanted to restore the surrounding land to its native habitat of prairie, savanna, and woodlands,” Brandon told me.
Next to Superior Fresh’s organic greenhouse lies its fish house, in which nearly 600,000 Atlantic salmon swim in clean, fresh water being fed a non-GMO organic diet. Through a closed-loop water system, water from the fish is cleaned and filtered to remove impurities while maintaining its nutrient-rich benefits. The water is next circulated to the greenhouse, where plants absorb those benefits and the clean water is returned to the fish house. The two operate in a symbiotic fashion where they act as each other’s cover crop in an extremely efficient model.
“We focused on creating value from what otherwise is considered a waste stream in the world of aquaculture,” Brandon explained. “Utilizing the nutrient-rich water from the fish gives us the ability to grow high-quality, certified organic vegetables. We’re using 1/30 the amount of water in comparison to soil farming, growing the healthiest, best tasting products while restoring the surrounding ecosystem.”
Although Superior Fresh is a relatively new company—its farm was built in 2017—it already has its eyes set toward expansion. Currently, the company has two phases of greenhouses with six acres under glass.
“Our phase three greenhouse is an additional seven acres, which will bring us to thirteen acres total and continue to bump our production of certified organic leafy greens,” Brandon noted. “What's nice about our facility is that everything is very consistent. We're harvesting organic product from our greenhouses daily, and we do that year-round. If we're harvesting out of our facility every day, it should be getting to the consumer every day. We want to make sure that the end consumer gets the best quality product possible and get the benefit from a maximum shelf life. That's a huge bonus to being local.”
One of Superior Fresh’s first customers was indeed close to home, as it supplied its products to c-store Kwik Trip.
“There are a lot of small towns in Wisconsin, which means that quite a few people rely on places like Kwik Trip for their food. Being able to provide organic products that are fresh, healthy, and delicious to so many consumers that would normally have to drive many miles to get that opportunity speaks volumes to the mission of Superior Fresh,” Brandon remarked.
Brandon’s enthusiasm for sustainable, organic farming is infectious and led us to a discussion about regenerative ag reimagined and what the company's next steps are. (Hint: We're diving into which new products Superior Fresh is trialing.) Intrigued? Stick around next week for Part Two of our discussion—you won’t want to miss it.